Reflecting on Independence Day and the freedoms we enjoy in this country brings to mind the freedom Arizona families have to choose from a host of educational opportunities. Look around the state and you’ll find everything from arts academies and STEM programs to International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum and Montessori models.

Arizona has become accustomed to a menu of school choices for our kids, but what you might be surprised to learn is that these diverse quality offerings are coming from some of the largest districts in the state, serving urban cores in high poverty areas. And they’re yielding great success for their students.

One such example is Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD), which includes 17 high schools, serving 27,000+ students in the urban center of metro Phoenix. PUHSD serves mostly Latino student populations in predominately low-income areas. For a district of its size – the 4th or 5th largest urban school system in the country – they are a trendsetter when it comes to establishing specialized school models targeted at preparing students for the military, college, and career.

Launching this fall, PUHSD’s Phoenix Coding Academy was developed to meet the needs of large high-tech employers like Google, Go Daddy and Microsoft who paved the way for the new school’s start. Another PUHSD campus, Bioscience High School, is modeling students in science, technology, engineering, and math, setting many on a path to pursue a career in the medical field, forensics, or other biotechnology career. Meanwhile, Betty H. Fairfax High School in Laveen and North High School offer outstanding IB programs that are driving many Latino students to earn full ride scholarships and to gain entrance into Arizona state universities’ competitive honors programs.

PUHSD’s vision and mission to prepare every student for success in college, career, and life is inspiring and we applaud the innovative ways they’re making that happen. We hope you had a wonderful 4th of July and feel privileged, as we do, to live in a state that embraces freedom to choose from a wide variety of educational opportunities for our students. Now, let’s make every opportunity, an ‘A’!